It wasn’t easy getting a reservation at Salt of the Earth, so when I finally secured a spot for last Thursday evening, I was excited. We arrived at 8pm sharp, and were greeted by a very friendly hostess. As she was checking on our table, I looked around, and was extremely impressed with the layout of the restaurant.
Immediately upon entering, you get to see the chefs in action – there’s a large pane of glass in the entry-way that provides patrons a perfect view of the culinary talent. If you want an even better vantage point, you can opt for the small bar-like seating area immediately in front of the kitchen. Beyond the hostess stand is a large communal seating area. There are large picnic-style tables where you can sit, eat, and also enjoy the company of complete strangers. On the far-side wall is an extremely large, chalkboard-like surface with all of the menu items, as well as drink specials; this board is visible anywhere in the restaurant. At the other end of the dining room is a small bar with two very enthusiastic bartenders. If you prefer a more intimate setting, make a reservation. With a reservation, you will be seated on the second level, which provides a quiet, intimate setting perfect for small gatherings, or a table for two.
The drink menu at Salt of the Earth isn’t extensive, but is very representative of the menu (more on that later). The drinks are made with care, and are extremely good. I had a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale ($5.00) and my dinner guest ordered a vodka cocktail with blood-orange and chili powder ($10.00). The beer was crisp, with a slightly bitter after-taste. The cocktail was magical- it was sweet, tangy, and had a heated after-taste; a nice finish to a refreshing creation. Our other dinner guests enjoyed multitude of reds, ranging from $6.00 to $18.00.
We sampled four different appetizers: The Venison Tartare ($13), Beet Salad ($8), Mackerel ($10), and Snails ($12). The Venison Tartare was exquisite; the meat was simply prepared with mild spices, and served with a white-chocolate sauce and blood oranges. Delicious. The beet salad consisted of yellow and red beets with frisee, truffle mustard, and a perfectly poached egg. The beets were crisp and tart, and went well with the truffle mustard. Break the egg and you have a second component adding to the mustard dressing. The snails were chewy, with a nice garlic-flavor, served with creamy grits, and fried chicken skin. My favorite starter was the Mackerel with prosciutto, crisp potatoes and olive. The fish was prepared with the skin on; the flesh was sweet, salty and fresh. The prosciutto was sliced paper-thin, and draped over the fish – an excellent, delicious combination.
We ordered: Hanger Steak ($21), Duck Breast ($19), Pork Loin ($18), and Scallops ($23).
My steak came in a bowl with an oversized spoon, and steel chopsticks. The dish consisted of grilled hanger Steak, bourbon dashi, soba, peanuts, chili. The meat was cooked a perfect medium rare; unfortunately it was gritty and almost impossible to chew. The broth was tasty, and the soba noodles were the best I’ve ever had. Small peanuts were spread throughout the broth and provided a nice finish.
The Duck Breast was also cooked perfectly, and served with banana, pear, carrot, and pistachio. Overall flavor was good, but the texture of the meat was difficult to chew – very grainy.
The Pork Loin was prepared with celeriac, cabbage, apple cider. The meat was very tender, and had a sweet apple-finish. The dish had a nice combination of flavors and textures; definitely a crowd favorite.
Three large scallops were served seared, with a sweet sauce and caviar. The sweet scallops were quite large, and everyone enjoyed the salty aftertaste.
There are two dessert options at SOTE, a cheese platter, or chocolate. We of course opted for the chocolate.
The dessert contained chocolate, goji berry, coconut, hazelnuts. Although the chocolate is advertised as pudding, they’re more like small squares of ganache. The small bites of soft, gooey chocolate are heavenly. A goji berry sauce is painted on the plate, and finished with a succulent, rich scoop of coconut ice cream – amazing!
Points of Interest:
There are no substitutions on orders at SOTE. If you order the duck medium, your server will politely inform you that the duck is only served medium-rare. If you would prefer extra beets instead of a poached egg – NO LUCK! I’m pretty sure this is every chef’s dream; not to have to put up with finicky eaters.
Our waitress was competent and attentive. She explained each dish thoroughly as it was served, refilled our water, and kept the wine flowing. At the conclusion of our meal, our server asked if I wanted to have my meal wrapped to go. I explained to her that the meat was too tough to chew… instead of asking if there was anything else I wanted, she simply shrugged and walked away.
Salt of the Earth is a hip, contemporary restaurant serving sophisticated fare. If you’re an adventurous eater, you’ll like the food. If you prefer more traditional cooking, you may be disappointed. Either way, it’s an interesting new restaurant worth checking out; just be sure to make reservations well in advance.